A theory about religion
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16-04-2011, 04:27 PM
A theory about religion
I've been thinking a lot about a quote from Steven Weinberg (a simple version)

"There are good people who do good things, and bad people who do bad things but it takes religion to make good people do bad things."

This theory was a fact, but also in reverse. I started to think of religion as a political tool, to be me more specific: a behavior-bending tool .

Since in the beginning you had powerful people and less powerful people (think about tribes and stuff). There wasn't much that kept the powerful people from abusing their power to dominate the rest for their own selfish needs. Here's where religion became an invaluable tool for the less powerful. For example (probably not very realistic) in a tribe: the clan leader couldn't harm the others due to some religious laws. The all powerful god would smite his rage on him, for he wants them all to be a happy family. On the same time they used it for explaining stuff they couldn't explain, so that there was even more reason to believe in it.

After a few technological and revolutionary discoveries, we started explaining more stuff that were previously explained by religion which now seemed to be wrong. This is the moment where some people started to lose their fait and even saw some ways to abuse it for their own selfish needs. This is where Weinberg's theory comes in (there could even be some tribe examples of religion abuse, though i'm not certain about that).

Anyway today we've come to a state where the religious laws in our (western) society are nothing compared to the laws of the state (which now have the function to keep people from doing bad things) and we have science to explain what we once didn't know (except for the-meaning-of-life-stuff, life and death questions and other stuff we actually don't need to know to live a decent life). Therefor religion has lost it's function to society.

To some people religions helps them deal with issues of death and regret. Yet for those things i would happily refer them to Buddhism. I don't believe in Buddhism myself, but i think it's the best kind of a belief there is at the moment. There is no hierarchy nor intolerance to other beliefs within Buddhism. It's a philosophy to help people with life and death questions and also motivates them to act according to ethics. It has never been a tool, that's why it's so awesome (you might know other examples).
Yet there's still Christianity, Islam, Scientology and others which are still used as a tool to satisfy other people's lucrative or political needs and that's why i'm pretty much a hater when it comes to these religions.

I placed it here since it's pretty much a philosophic theory on religions and their functions. Some other people probably already came up with comparable things. Anyway I would like to know what you think of this theory, where i'm right, where i'm wrong.

Thanks for reading and i hope i get some feedback on this Smile

-Tim
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16-04-2011, 05:20 PM
 
RE: A theory about religion
Hey there, I myself never read that book, but I did read the bible and my feelings are that everything in it seems to be constructed for the sole purpose of indeed trying to create a tool for control. And that the fear of death was the fuel to drive it. Now understandably such things I would expect mankind to create because it is almost nececary. Both to fill in the blanks of knowledge on the place they lived in but also the idea that it only takes one smart and cunning man to seize power over the fearing often non-educated minds. I mean if Hitler could so effectively use propagande, lies and indoctrination to turn most of an entire nation believing they were doing the right thing who is to say that could not have happened in 4000BC?

Also for me, the book almost seems to evolve from childish fiction and absolute lack of knowledge of the world into a more adolecent man that was riding through a mid life crisis. Back then becomming 80 years old was not the standard I can somehow understand the maturity of the book growing with the longer lifespans of humans thanks to created science. I don't know if that is true or not but it realy makes me think that the bible was absolutely created by man and not dictated by god. I just recognize too much human failing in it and not a shred of divine wisdom. Maybe for the "I kill the baby trick" but a few lines further even he fucks it up pretty diligently.

I had an argument with someone on the notion that an atheist will be less able to execute his moral then someone that would fear for his immortal soul. I kind of placed my questionmarks next to that because even the bible delivers a lot of loopholes to crawl through. In my honoust opinion religion can only work if it is perfect. I did not find a single religion that even comes close to it without breaking some serious moral that I have set for myself. Now budism, I am interested in that one because it lacks the personal god, education and phylosophy seems to be the guideline. But i'll have to look into that more closely one day.

Dont know if this helps you much but that is my vision on that book and most religions in general.
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17-04-2011, 12:37 AM
RE: A theory about religion
(16-04-2011 05:20 PM)CrashPilot Wrote:  Hey there, I myself never read that book, but I did read the bible and my feelings are that everything in it seems to be constructed for the sole purpose of indeed trying to create a tool for control. And that the fear of death was the fuel to drive it. Now understandably such things I would expect mankind to create because it is almost nececary. Both to fill in the blanks of knowledge on the place they lived in but also the idea that it only takes one smart and cunning man to seize power over the fearing often non-educated minds. I mean if Hitler could so effectively use propagande, lies and indoctrination to turn most of an entire nation believing they were doing the right thing who is to say that could not have happened in 4000BC?

Also for me, the book almost seems to evolve from childish fiction and absolute lack of knowledge of the world into a more adolecent man that was riding through a mid life crisis. Back then becomming 80 years old was not the standard I can somehow understand the maturity of the book growing with the longer lifespans of humans thanks to created science. I don't know if that is true or not but it realy makes me think that the bible was absolutely created by man and not dictated by god. I just recognize too much human failing in it and not a shred of divine wisdom. Maybe for the "I kill the baby trick" but a few lines further even he fucks it up pretty diligently.

I had an argument with someone on the notion that an atheist will be less able to execute his moral then someone that would fear for his immortal soul. I kind of placed my questionmarks next to that because even the bible delivers a lot of loopholes to crawl through. In my honoust opinion religion can only work if it is perfect. I did not find a single religion that even comes close to it without breaking some serious moral that I have set for myself. Now budism, I am interested in that one because it lacks the personal god, education and phylosophy seems to be the guideline. But i'll have to look into that more closely one day.

Dont know if this helps you much but that is my vision on that book and most religions in general.
I can fully agree with your vision.
I personally never read that book either, i just knew that famous quote. I also never read the bible, i did however spend a part of my life in a catholic school, yet i never had the intention to read a book that's altered so many times to keep the scam alive.

I just wanted to point out that religion wasn't always that bad as it is today. The Islam, Christianity, and other modern religions however are evolved kinds. As time passed more and more people saw the possibility to manipulate people for selfish purposes, while in the beginning it was more to manipulate the behavior of an entire society. (at least that's what i believe) It probably started as something completely harmless, a fantasy, an idea, who knows.

About the argument you once had: you don't need to be in a religion to believe in an immortal soul. But he might have a point that religious people act morally better than us. Even though the bible is nonsense for a big part, the ideas are also based on the ethics that we all feel and all know, but again also in reverse. You can make people harm others with the illusion that it's what the religion wants. I'm pretty certain that the kill non-believers thing was added later on. Not in Christianity but in religions that came before.

Anyway it was great to read you vision on this Smile
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17-04-2011, 07:42 AM
RE: A theory about religion
(17-04-2011 12:37 AM)Tim_Kiebooms Wrote:  I just wanted to point out that religion wasn't always that bad as it is today. The Islam, Christianity, and other modern religions however are evolved kinds. As time passed more and more people saw the possibility to manipulate people for selfish purposes, while in the beginning it was more to manipulate the behavior of an entire society. (at least that's what i believe) It probably started as something completely harmless, a fantasy, an idea, who knows.
Your opening post almost got it, and atheists would do themselves a tremendous benefit if they understood religions as political parties, or factions of a party.

Just like political parties, religions are social organizations promoted as having the proper ideas for guiding society to its better evolution. It would be absurd for members or constituents to argue that their political affiliation is not about guiding society, just as it is absurd to believe that religions are not about guiding society, but about personal enlightenment.

Atheists have a lot of difficulty accepting this, because of their fear of being forced to believe in gods, or having to participate in activities related to perpetuating the belief in gods. The solution is for atheists to realize that they have the potential to be political guides for society as well, and that entails organizing. And that is the major malfunction of atheists - they do not want to organize and accept the responsibility of being the guide. Atheists just want to complain about religions, and subsequently, political parties that do not cater to their pet issue.

Religions are social organizations - always have been, alway will be. Gods are just allegorical references for complex, and probably erroneous ideologies, just as political party designations are just references for ideologies that are erroneous and unrelated to their root meanings.

Humanism - ontological doctrine that posits that humans define reality
Theism - ontological doctrine that posits a supernatural entity creates and defines reality
Atheism - political doctrine opposed to theist doctrine in public policy
I am right, and you are wrong - I hope you die peacefullyCool
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17-04-2011, 01:48 PM
RE: A theory about religion
(17-04-2011 07:42 AM)TrainWreck Wrote:  
(17-04-2011 12:37 AM)Tim_Kiebooms Wrote:  I just wanted to point out that religion wasn't always that bad as it is today. The Islam, Christianity, and other modern religions however are evolved kinds. As time passed more and more people saw the possibility to manipulate people for selfish purposes, while in the beginning it was more to manipulate the behavior of an entire society. (at least that's what i believe) It probably started as something completely harmless, a fantasy, an idea, who knows.
Your opening post almost got it, and atheists would do themselves a tremendous benefit if they understood religions as political parties, or factions of a party.

Just like political parties, religions are social organizations promoted as having the proper ideas for guiding society to its better evolution. It would be absurd for members or constituents to argue that their political affiliation is not about guiding society, just as it is absurd to believe that religions are not about guiding society, but about personal enlightenment.

Atheists have a lot of difficulty accepting this, because of their fear of being forced to believe in gods, or having to participate in activities related to perpetuating the belief in gods. The solution is for atheists to realize that they have the potential to be political guides for society as well, and that entails organizing. And that is the major malfunction of atheists - they do not want to organize and accept the responsibility of being the guide. Atheists just want to complain about religions, and subsequently, political parties that do not cater to their pet issue.

Religions are social organizations - always have been, alway will be. Gods are just allegorical references for complex, and probably erroneous ideologies, just as political party designations are just references for ideologies that are erroneous and unrelated to their root meanings.
Complaining has always been the easy road, yet doing something about it is simply out of the question. That's what atheists (like me) have been awfully good at.

But i also think that religions lost most of their political value in the western society. You still have people that cling a lot to their religion, but therefor deny scientific evidence. The same people could make groundbreaking discoveries, but they are instead glued to religious dogmas. And that while we've got ethics and laws to replace these dogmas and we can still function perfectly as a member of society (of which the average atheist is a great example).

The point is, a modern society could easily work without religions and simply answer these unanswerable questions with philosophy, however in the past it was necessary as a political tool, this way a whole social network has been built around it, which made it pretty much stuck on our society like a dying tree rooted to the ground. Still the fact that it's a social organization, keeps it pretty much alive. I just hope that one of these days we can keep it all behind us, and think rational when it comes to improving society instead of basing ideas on mere fantasy. Since that's the only thing that religions bring with them these days (creationists, scientology). All the useful ideals that religion already became a part of our ethics, moral sciences and even sociology.

I think we've got what we wanted from religion, now it's time to move on. (at least in my opinion) Of course at the moment just the idea of doing that is utopian to say the least.
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20-04-2011, 03:47 PM
RE: A theory about religion
Yeah, it seems to me that atheists are going to have to be forced to segregate, so as to force them to 'reveal' the scientific social order. It is partially started by the constitution of the United States, but that has been corrupted over the years to disavow the value of segregation, which is championed by states rights. Contemporary atheists believe plural-secular communities is the efficient path to "freedom from religion."

Humanism - ontological doctrine that posits that humans define reality
Theism - ontological doctrine that posits a supernatural entity creates and defines reality
Atheism - political doctrine opposed to theist doctrine in public policy
I am right, and you are wrong - I hope you die peacefullyCool
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28-04-2011, 06:35 PM
RE: A theory about religion
I like this discussion - it's the most thoughtful treatment of religion i've seen in a long time.

Of course organized religion is a tool of control! It has been since the dawn of civilization. In civilized societies* people are required to act against their self-interest in order to serve the interest of the elite. The three pillars of power are: aristocracy (ruling class; owners, bosses) army (external force, coercion) and the priesthood (seducers; brain-washing). The larger, more complex and highly organized a civilization, the more pomp and ritual and rules and stuff to memorize - keeps the peons distracted and stupefied... plus, whatever happens, it's your fault for not believing enough, or lighting the wrong-coloured candle or taking the deity's name in vain.

*As distinct from primitive, or natural society. In pre-civilized societies, the organizational unit is the family, so the interest of the clan is the same as that of its individual members - neither can survive without the other. Here, the purpose of religion is quite different: it was, first, an imaginative depiction of natural forces and human traits, a way of keeping the wisdom of departed elders alive, of instructing the young, unifying the group, healing psychological and interpersonal conflict.
Religion wasn't invented all of a piece or handed down from on high: it grew as part of the organic culture of each clan, according to its particular landscape, experience and life-style, with every individual contributing. That's not bad - that's human. And like everything human, it can so easily be corrupted!

It's not the mean god I have trouble with - it's the people who worship a mean god.
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